Giorgio Delgado

Frameworks vs Abstract Thinking

June 29, 2015

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I think most people assess the value of their degree / diploma strictly from an employability perspective. i.e. "which degree would signal to a potential employer how valuable I am." If that's strictly the reason for choosing one field of study over another, then you may be missing the point of "higher learning".

What one should value more is what you're actually learning and what knowledge you can take with you after you graduate. Forget the fact you your degree is a BSc rather than a BA. Who cares.

In my case, Economics is a beautifully disorganized mess that I couldn't be happier to have stumbled upon. The models and mathematics that one analyzes for four years are hardly applicable to a job in the corporate / tech world, or anything other than academia for that matter.

The value comes in a fresh perspective in analyzing the world. Economics allows you to think in an abstract and philosophical manner so as to think of a creative solution to what may have previously seemed an impossibility.

There are difficult classes (hello econometrics and game theory), but the fact that you can manage to solve the problems in such a tough class are testament to your ability to focus on one task and actually complete it.

Once graduated and you're faced with a tough problem in the real world you'll reflect back at the thinking process you undertook to prove, for example, a probabilistic equation and abstract from that a useful framework to sidestep this problem you're currently faced with.

This form of thinking is applicable to whatever you're studying be it english or physics. One thing to note however, is that the more abstract thinking a degree contains, the more useful the knowledge gained will be later on in life as the thinking processes are not restricted to their intended domains.

In contrast, one could be in a framework-heavy field of study. A frameworks- heavy field of study is business for example. You don't learn many technical things and the things you do learn are only applicable to one domain. i.e. Porters Five Forces, Options Pricing Models, Business Plan Writing ... these are all frameworks that have difficulty being applied to to other domains.

Compare that to a degree in mathematics, which is as abstract as it could possibly get. None of the things you learn are restricted to any domain. The ways of solving problems in mathematics can then be applied to any situation you are in.

Computer Scientists are a great example of a type of people who repeatedly solve problems outside of their domain by using the abstract knowledge they gained. Algorithm's for example (although invented a long time ago) are widely studied in CS, but most any computer scientist will tell you that they think about their problems in an algorithmic manner.

The more abstract knowledge you have, the better you are generating unique solutions to all sorts of problems.